No permanent home yet for K-5 STEM at Boren: ‘You will be somewhere’

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Almost one full year after the Seattle School Board voted to create a new STEM (science, technology, engineering, math)-focused elementary in West Seattle, the district has not yet chosen the school’s permanent home – and district leaders indicated tonight that almost a second full year is likely to pass before a decision.

They spoke at a meeting of the PTA for the school that’s officially known as K-5 STEM at Boren – after the Delridge Way building where it’s currently housed – though the school calls itself West Seattle STEM Elementary.

Names and definitions were at the heart of the evening’s tension, too; the district still sees STEM education as a “program,” it was clear from district administrators, which is a big reason why they had nothing concrete to say regarding where the students, staffers, and family who see themselves as a school will be in the future. And the more than 50 people in attendance were warned not to expect any decisions before fall, meaning that another round of families choosing K-5 STEM will be making a leap of faith without knowing where their children might be educated a few years down the line.

More than 50 people attended the meeting, originally billed as featuring Southwest Region Executive Director of Schools Carmela Dellino and School Board member Marty McLaren, but also fronted by two district administrators who joined them – Assistant Superintendent of Operations Pegi McEvoy and Executive Director of K-12 Operations Phil Brockman.

“We’re not going to have any absolute concrete answers,” Dellino warned, before handing over the microphone to McEvoy, who began by musing: “When we originally started talking about this a couple years ago – would a STEM elementary even fly? – (but) this has been an amazing response … we weren’t sure whether we were going to end up with a program of 30, or (more) … We thought you were a program, then a program at a school .. where are all these programs that we feel are important going to land at the buildings we have throughout the district? It’s not just about STEM, but about Advanced Learning, and Language Immersion (etc.), and we have to have a conversation about all these programs.”

She said that “conversation” about placement of “programs” districtwide will begin in spring, with Brockman “leading those conversations with the school board” before the community gets involved. She acknowledged “we have a vocal community here who wants to keep this (group) together and keep it together as an elementary school. … If we do it here, how do we have equity of access throughout the district, what does that look like to us?”

And, how would it affect the buildings, how would they do boundary adjustments? she continued to ask, going on about the district’s challenges. “The boundary discussions will be after the program-placement discussions in late spring.”

“If everybody was hoping we could give you an answer tonight – we can give you an update of where we are in the process …” but that process wouldn’t end until November.

Brockman then took the mike, noting he had worked at Boren for two years while principal of West Seattle High School, which was temporarily housed there during its renovations: “I like what you’ve done with the place.”

At a board work session in September, Brockman was the first district official we heard using the term “program” for West Seattle STEM, as reported here; we were pointed to him that night while pursuing the same question – where will the new school eventually land?

Tonight, Brockman mentioned policies need to be merged “to come up with a decisionmaking model about how we place programs and services equitably across the district. … We’re moving forward, slow, but we want to get it right.” He committed to a meeting here about the “STEM program and elements that revolve around that, do you want to be an option school, a neighborhood school … bring it back to the district and (the school board).”

McLaren, who represents West Seattle and South Park on the board, then spoke: “As far as the questions you all have … first it depends on passing (the district’s Building Excellence) levy (next month) …then we can have discussions about program placement … We are looking at you to create a model for the district.” She lauded the parents for their commitment and imagination.

Heidi Alessi – one of the PTA’s co-presidents, with Robin Graham – then asked for questions:

The first to speak was a man who said, “I signed my son up for a school, not a program.” Applause followed. “Where could a school this size fit … what’s the list?” he asked.

“I’m going to make a big assumption that you want to stay in West Seattle,” McEvoy replied, drawing more applause. “… without portables, also? … We would like to right-size every school community so we aren’t putting them in portables (for homerooms). Most schools in West Seattle are small,” she continued, mentioning that Schmitz Park would be moving out of a small building if/when the new BEX IV-funded replacement is built on Genesee Hill. “It depends on how big you are going to be … two classes (per grade)? … what would be ideal for you? … We have Schmitz Park that will be opening up … Hughes is going to be opening up but not until 2015, because the lease is going to be ending there … We are building the new Arbor Heights … which is going to be a very large neighborhood school …”

She forgot Fairmount Park – currently being renovated and expanded for a move-in date of fall 2014, seven years after it was closed – until prompted. “We are doing some remodeling there … all of those options depend on whether they’re going to be neighborhood schools or option schools, and what does this community feel like … Let’s say we dedicated Fairmount Park as a neighborhood school,” she said, going through how a neighborhood school works.

Alessi noted that she had never been told when “sold” on STEM that there was a chance there might not be a West Seattle school building for this group: “We were sold a school, now you’re calling it a program, it might be a neighborhood school … It’s not what we were sold.” That too drew applause.

McLaren tried to clarify that designating Fairmount Park a neighborhood school for its reopening would be “an entirely different issue from where (STEM) would be placed. …Presumably (if that happened) we would put STEM at a different location,” as an option school with a tiebreaker “geo-zone.” She summarized, “I hope I’m making it clear that there’s no intention at all of placing this school in a neighborhood school that would automatically kick some of you out” (because of residency).

McEvoy then revealed that “I was originally thinking that Fairmount Park would be absolutely ideal (for K-5 STEM), it’s in the absolute center of the area, north and south families could get there … Then we started looking at some of our enrollment numbers and where we were having overenrollment in some of our areas, and as some of you are aware, West Seattle Elementary has been growing and growing and growing …” and that, she said, with some boundary adjustments, led to the perception that Fairmount Park would be better as a neighborhood school.

Brockman returned to the topic of the board-adopted racial equity and access policy, so “whatever decision we are making, we have to put that at the center of our decisionmaking.”

The next parent to speak said she was “disappointed that we’re at almost a year since the (first discussion of the new school)” and she feels the district is “shooting itself in the foot” by not announcing a permanent location before the next round of open enrollment. She suggested there are many more potential attendees whose families are still awaiting for more information about the school’s future, “so why wait until the fall?”

McLaren went back to the “equity tool,” saying the board would have to ask itself to evaluate every decision as to whether it would mean “less choice” for people with fewer “resources.” If the STEM school were north of the Ship Canal, for example, ‘that would make it very difficult for more people to get to.” She added that they needed to take many other programs into account, such as Advanced Learning and Language Immersion, regarding “placing them equitably.”

McEvoy then seemed to commit fleetingly to the fact that the school will stay as a school, but, what if it is suddenly overenrolled? she said. “We want every family to have the type of education (they want).” She said they are worried about managing “demand and success,” and “providing seats at the right place and the right time.”

Another parent then told her flatly that “meetings like this” are causing “confusion” and “stress” as long as the district continues to not commit to keeping the school together. “We can talk from now until doomsday that there’s not any place big enough and we’re sitting in a building that’s big enough.”

McEvoy acknowledged “I think what parents are asking for is stability and predictability … and (though) commitments were made (by district officials who are no longer with the district), we need to honor those commitments.”

(The year since the decision was made to start the school has seen the district change superintendents as well as middle-managers, including Cathy Thompson, the former assistant superintendent who had led discussions regarding the plan, and Aurora Lora, the former executive director of West Seattle schools who also had a very visible role in the setup.)

McEvoy then reminded those in attendance that Boren is an “emergency and interim site” for the district and is intended to be kept that way. She said “we want a place that’s more permanent for you.”

The next parent to speak suggested the district was short on forethought – too many questions, too few answers. McEvoy went back to saying the district wasn’t sure there would be enough demand for this kind of school, what she then described as “this program – soon to be school, once we get you at wherever we get you at.”

A teacher said that he is aware money has been spent to expand capacity at Boren, which would mean there’s an option to stay here, or change the geozone of West Seattle to merge it into this school. But, he said, “when all of us met more than a year ago, we were told we were going to have a school, most likely Fairmount Park … promises were made and should be kept … you have an obligation as public servants to meet your obligations to the public … and I don’t think there’s a person in this room that believes you’re doing that yet.” He said there’s work “behind the partition walls” at Boren; McEvoy said that was mostly seismic work, and also related to ‘staging things’ for when Arbor Heights Elementary has to move out of its school for the BEX-funded construction program that’s coming up (assuming that levy passes; at that point she also said SPS is working wth the Legislature to see if there’s any way to move up Arbor Heights’ rebuild to be fewer than five years out).

The next parent asked for more clarity on “equity,” since the community would view it as allowing access to families that want their children to have access to “project-based learning as an option,” and she is concerned about how transportation would be affected. She noted that her daughter loves science, and “we left Pathfinder (K-8) to come here for that.” She also suggested that the crowding issues might be best affected by using the to-be-old Schmitz Park and to-be-reopened EC Hughes as new neighborhood schools.

“With open enrollment coming up, what is SPS going to say to parents?” the next person asked, saying it was difficult enough to make a decision last year, and now it sounds as if the district is being even more uncertain about its future.

McEvoy’s reply: “What we will be saying is that this is a school that will be here this year and next year, and that as we have conversations about where their permanent home wll be, those conversations will be happening this spring and next fall, and this community will be weighing in about where that will be.”

Specifically, how many incoming kindergarten classes will they allow? she was asked. “The budgeting process will be starting in February,” she said, at which time they will start looking at what schools will look like next year, with principals putting together their budget proposals in March. Brockman said that’s when they hope to have a “pretty good projection of how many students will be coming here” in the fall.

He then sought to reassure them that a permanent home was in their future: “You will be somewhere. This is STEM. You are successful. You will be somewhere. We are just not sure where yet,” said Brockman.

Pressed further – does that mean they’ll be an option school for sure? – he said that’s up to the board and they cannot make a commitment to that right now. “So this is going to stay a school?” one man pressed; McEvoy nodded, then qualified, “I have heard nothing from the school board that you would be anything but an option school … but even if you were a neighborhood school, the board usually votes for grandfathering (current students).” She again stressed that decisions would be made in November.

The talk then turned to capacity issues overall, at which time McEvoy noted that some have wondered if every elementary school should be a STEM school. A few applauded, a few said “no.”

But they were pressed yet again, what’s the plan for next year, how many classes will be added?

While not addressing that directly, McEvoy said she was hearing that the school wanted to stay together as a single cohort over the ensuing years, starting with those in the 4 kindergarten classes this year. A show of hands affirmed that.

One woman voiced regret that she didn’t feel she could try to discuss bigger-picture education-funding issues at the school because so many school-specific issues remained unresolved – “I’m mad at you guys,” she told the district reps, for leaving them in limbo this long.

“I really appreciate your honesty,” McLaren offered, segueing into a memory of her early days on the school board a year ago when this school was first under discussion: “We made promises that we didn’t know how we were going to keep, but we knew we would keep them somehow.” But, she said, she was “naive” and didn’t really understand what needed to go into the decisionmaking. “I know that sometimes those promises just don’t get kept … but I can tell you, this is a promise that’s going to be kept, that you will be together, that your STEM program is very wholeheartedly supported, and I’m sorry that we can’t tell you where that will be, but we simply have to have the big-picture conversation first, and as far as where we will have this program, assuming it is an option program, which is what everybody is thinking on the school board, I can’t tell you because there are a lot of variables …”

The district officials then were asked how much they were involving K-5 STEM’s principal Dr. Shannon McKinney in the process of making decisions such as, how much new enrollment will be involved this year before there’s a building decision. She would be involved, they were assured; Brockman said he agreed that two or three new classes might be more manageable.

A woman with a 1st grader and 4th grader asked about the district’s vision for where her older child will wind up going in middle school. Brockman said Dellino has been “working with the middle-school principals [Denny and Madison] about STEM coursework … (she) has been very passionate around the table when we talk about this … science and technology is really going to be a focus for all of our kids in the future.”

Dellino affirmed that she saw it as “very important” that the work at K-5 STEM continue. She said that the STEM principal has met with administrators and that a STEM task force will be started “so that the work you are doing now can be carried on at Madison/WSHS as well as at Denny/Chief Sealth – that’s the commitment you have in the West Seattle region.” Friday she will be meeting with the district’s new assistant sueprintendent o teaching and learning and science program manager “to start solidifying some of that work … that (it) can’t just stop at the elementary level.”

Alessi asked why it sounded as if no designated pathway into middle and high school was planned “like the international schools.” Dellino said, “I don’t think that decision has been made … but regardless of that decisoin I think it’s important as a district that we do a better job of science, technology, engineering and math – (and) as a nation.”

No dates are set for further discussions, yet, but if you have an opinion about K-5 STEM’s permanent home, the district says its mailbox is where to send e-mail.

Earlier in the meeting:

-Before the discussion of the school’s future, a Schools First rep outlined the upcoming school-levies vote. She reminded everyone that the election is on February 12th and has two levies: First, renewing the operating levy: “You may have issues with the school district, but none of them are going to get better if you don’t pass this levy.” Second, the fourth cycle of the Building Excellence (BEX) levy, also a “renewal,” as she described it, but with “enhancements” including earthquake-safety measures for many buildings.

“It’s so important that people realize that ballots are getting mailed,” that you will get your ballot next week, she emphasized. “We’re not going to have a great city without strong schools, and we’re not going to have strong schools without investing.”

The text of the ballot measures, and arguments for/against, can be found here.

35 Replies to "No permanent home yet for K-5 STEM at Boren: 'You will be somewhere'"

  • WSMama3 January 15, 2013 (10:09 pm)

    Thanks Tracy for covering. I am really, really thankful that you captured our community’s meeting.

  • StringCheese January 15, 2013 (10:44 pm)

    Tracy, first, thank you so much for covering this. However, as a person on the front lines in the struggles with the district over STEM, I actually walked away from the meeting feeling a bit better about our future. A few points:
    1. We are here to stay. People who choose STEM during open enrollment can be assured that the district sees us as a success story and although we may not know today what building we will land in, we will not be dismantled or absorbed by another school.
    2. We have an amazing space at Boren (parents should really come tour). If it is a few extra years before we find a suitable building, we have facilities that are more than adequate while we wait.
    3. The district is realizing that we can function as a model for more STEM programs throughout the district. Equity doesn’t mean we don’t continue, it means replicating our success in more places.
    4. The district is consistently surprised by the level of passion, energy, and support that the STEM community has. From the moment they held that first meeting at Schmitz to the attendance numbers tonight, they consistently underestimate our strength, resolve, and passion.
    These are all things that you covered but get a bit lost in the shuffle. No one need fear enrolling their children in our amazing school for fear it might disappear. Sure, we will most likely be in a different building in 2-5 years. So what? With our amazing staff, students, and families, you could put us in a corn field and we would thrive. However, we will fight for what is best for our students every step of the way.

  • kr January 16, 2013 (12:05 am)

    I attended the meeting, although I’m not a STEM parent. We have a four year old approaching kindergarten and wanted more information.

    I asked a question to McEvoy and Brockman after the meeting that probably should have been asked with everybody there.

    What happens if the levies don’t pass?

    Their response was that they try not to even think about it. They both visibly shuddered at the thought of the levy failing. All of these relocation options being discussed are contingent on the levies passing. If they don’t then the school district will have very serious issues that will ripple across the whole district. If the levies do not pass the board will have to consider all options for cuts as they repackage and go back to the voters later for a much smaller funding package.

    I really haven’t looked at the levies in detail and, from what I read, I am not sold on SPS’s abilities to manage anything efficiently. I’m speaking from the perspective of an interested bystander looking in to a fish bowl at this point so I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and do my research.

    Bottom line is, you can’t count on any of the options outlined tonight if the levy fails. Ballots apparently arrive next week so it’s time to read up on everything and develop your own opinion before you vote.

  • Done January 16, 2013 (1:49 am)

    I already know how I am voting. Moved to private schools. I am done with SPS. We tried elementary years were great, Middle school a waste of three years. Much happier now that our students time is respected and full of learning.

  • Brontosaurus January 16, 2013 (8:15 am)

    @Done please reconsider your vote! Voting against the levy doesn’t just hurt the school district, it hurts our children. I desperately wish that I could afford to send my child to private school, but I can’t. We had planned on it, but our family was hit hard by the recession – my husband was laid off from his job of 25 years, and we’re still desperately treading water financially. No amount of cutting back will send my kid to private school (we applied to them but did not qualify for financial aid, so could not go). STEM is fantastic — the staff and parents (kids too) form a great community — it’s almost like a co- op school, we put so much effiort in. PLEASE VOTE YES – FOR US! Don’t vote no to spite SPS, you only hurt those of us who can’t afford to send our kids to private school.

  • Heidi A January 16, 2013 (8:32 am)

    StringCheese is right on. While I have walked away from many district meetings feeling frustrated, I walked away from this one feeling very positive. Our school board members and central admin can tend to talk in broad strokes that are easy to misinterpret. For example, Marty tends to says things like “IF you are a school” or “you most LIKELY will be grandfathered if moved to a neighbor school”, or maybe STEM should be north of the ship canal. So, I could take all of that to mean (a) we might not be a school, (b) maybe my son will be kicked out in 2 years, or (c) they might move us to North Seattle.

    BUT – when pressed – none of that was the intended meaning. All four district officials emphasized the following:

    – They made a promise that they will fufill.

    – We will have a permanent home in West Seattle.

    – No board member has considered K-5 STEM as anything but an OPTION SCHOOL.

    I encourage prospective parents to come tour the school, attend our open house, and talk to us (see PTA website). We made the decision to attend with little information and I am so glad that we did. For me, the proof is in my 2nd grade son’s smiling face when I ask him how school was. He LOVES it, a stark contrast to last year when he “hated school” and thought it was “so boring.” I knew a STEM focused, project based curriculum would be the thing to engage him. Our fantastic teachers, Principal and community have proved me right. To me, this outweighs the uncertainty of a permanent home.

  • CSouth January 16, 2013 (8:38 am)

    Done – – I’d like to echo brontasaurous and ask who is hurt by a no vote… Do you honestly think that the officials who wasted your time are hurt… They might have more headaches at work, but at the end of the day, they go home.

    It’s our kids, the ones who can’t afford private schools, who you are penalizing with your vote. Please reconsider.

  • Heidi A January 16, 2013 (8:49 am)

    As to the levies:

    KR – thanks for coming! I think the question wasn’t asked because I said at the beginning of the meeting that all bets for ALL Seattle schools are off if the levies don’t pass. It’s not about STEM – the levies are more important for Schmitz Park and Arbor Heights, but there will be an enormous domino effect on all schools in the form of laid-off teachers, over-crowded classrooms, loss of art, no hope for strong math and science in all schools – the list goes on.

    Done – I encourage people to vote by thinking outside themselves and what is best for our city, what is best for the 50,000+ children that attend our public schools. I’m sorry you had a bad a experience, but not everyone has the privilege of moving to a private school and declaring themselves done. Voting no is a vote against children who do not have the same luxury. A yes vote is an easy way to be part of the solution if you don’t like what you see.

    A no vote is also a vote against the Seattle ECONOMY. Do you really want a city full of poorly educated kids who can’t get into college, can’t find find jobs and strain our social resources? Do you want companies to leave and take jobs with them because we don’t have a skilled work-force? (I say this solely to make a point – I don’t think my son is getting a poor education, but schools need funds to keep pace with our growing population and changing economy).

  • B January 16, 2013 (9:02 am)

    We’ve had kids in private schools for the past fifteen years and yet consistently vote in favor of levies. The time to vote to send a message is at school board elections. Kids are the ones who pay the price if a levy is defeated.

  • Westseattleperson January 16, 2013 (9:09 am)

    Reading between the lines… Sounds like the north end is wanting a stem school and being loud.

  • wsea January 16, 2013 (9:33 am)

    Can someone add a link to the schools stats. i.e. average class size, number or classer per grade level.

    I would like to learn more about the program but cant find good infromation on school.

    How the BEX funding impact the school? I checked the BEX page but did not find STEM listed. Maybe its a new addition to the funding.

  • Brontosaurus January 16, 2013 (10:07 am)

    @Wsea STEM’s stats aren’t available on the SPS website (too new I think). Check the PTA website for info on the STEM program, curriculum etc. The school has 3 K classes, one K/1 (12 kindergarteners and 12 1st grade), one 1st, one 2nd, one 2/3, one 3rd, one 4th, and one 5th. School pop. is about 250. Diversity is good (of course, it could always be better but we do seen to have quite a diverse student body). Not sure how many kindergarten classes and other grades that will be added in Sept. SPS is waiting for open enrollment numbers.

  • Heidi A January 16, 2013 (10:28 am)

    Westseattleperson – I believe you are correctly reading between those lines. My two cents is it is about time we have more than one option school in West Seattle, the north has many. Plus, as an option school, we do have families from North and South Seattle. West Seattle as a whole needs to be as loud and vocal as the north in our feedback and proposed solutions.
    Again, I felt positive about the meeting and am finally feeling like they are “getting” our proposed solution, which is – keep us an an option school in WS, let us continue the momentum and success and we can be a model school for other regions. The solution is not to take away from West Seattle because others want more. The solution is not to pit West Seattle school against West Seattle school.

    Something to keep in mind – the north has influence, aside from affluence, because they have multiple board members that overlap by region. The penninsula has one, who is by her own description not the loud vocal advocate. So – it’s up to us to advocate for West Seattle, all of West Seattle.

  • kayo January 16, 2013 (12:33 pm)

    B – excellent point. This should be a talking point for the pro levy campaign. We have a child in public school (at Pathfinder) and another one who will be going to school in a couple years and the thought of this levy failing makes me shudder. The infrastructure frankly sucks at many of the schools in west seattle from lousy equipment to buildings in awful condition. I am afraid without this money, things will degrade even further. If you have opted out of public school in seattle because you are lucky enough to afford it then good for you. Not everyone has that choice and don’t punish the rest of us and our kids because it didn’t work out for you. I am personally very impressed by the faculty and staff at our school. They work so hard to educate our kids and deserve the support of our community through passage of this levy.

    Also just wanted to say how impressed I am by the stem community. I live near Boren and I have to say it is so nice to see that building in use after being an empty eyesore for so long. It is good for our neighborhood and we are glad you are here even if it won’t be permanent.

  • fiverson January 16, 2013 (1:36 pm)

    Be careful not to assume the worst when “reading between the lines”…. building a great STEM school in West Seattle is not unfair to other areas of Seattle which are each served by unique Option Schools. It is very clear that this school wants to remain as an Option School to draw the students best served by their STEM-enhanced curriculum and alternative instructional strategies from many neighborhoods. The West Seattle STEM Elementary (K5STEM) community also wants to be an incubator for innovative and effective STEM elementary education for Seattle and beyond.

    To paraphrase one parent who spoke very eloquently at the meeting last night (noting that her family was commuting to West Seattle STEM Elementary from Ballard attracted by the innovation and diversity of the school): each learning community is unique….this school can’t just be replicated all over the city.

    When considering equity issues in program placement, be aware that while West Seattle STEM Elementary at Boren is Seattle Public School’s first designated STEM elementary, it is not the only Option School with STEM enhancements.

    The northeast area has the Jane Adams K-8 Option School which is at the end of a process to be officially labeled an E-STEM program (Environmental Science and STEM focus). Their community is being adversely affected by capacity issues, but they are in line to get a customized new building as part of the BEX IV Levy.

    According to the Queen Anne View news blog, the Queen Anne Elementary Option School also considered becoming a STEM school in 2010, but their Design Team chose to develop a “technology enhanced/enriched” school which a design team member described as “a combination of STEM and Innovation where technology empowers learning”. I know there are other STEM enhancements happening in Seattle’s schools (for example, Cleveland STEM High School) and I hope these unique schools can support each other and foster better STEM education in all our schools.

  • Julie W. January 16, 2013 (2:05 pm)

    I just want to urge anyone considering STEM for their child to visit the school and talk to the principal, teachers, and parents. I took a leap of faith and enrolled my daughter last year and her Kindergarten teacher could not be better. She is positive, creative, and just wonderful. I have heard nothing but positive things about other teachers as well. The enthusiasm of the staff is evident in the great atmosphere of the school. Regardless of where we as a school end up, I am so glad I chose it for my daughter.

  • StringCheese January 16, 2013 (3:24 pm)

    I know that someone else posted a link to our amazing PTA website, but I also wanted to post the dates and times of our upcoming Open House for prospective parents as well as School Tours:
    Prospective families interested in K-5 STEM are invited to an Open House where you will meet Principal McKinney, faculty, and our school community.
    January 31, 2013 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
    SCHOOL TOURS (parents and guardians only please)
    Monday, February 4, 10-11am
    Friday, February 8th, 10-11am
    Monday, February 11, 1-2pm
    Friday, February 19, 1-2 pm
    Our address:
    K-5 STEM at Boren
    5950 Delridge Way SW
    Seattle, WA 98106
    (206) 252-8450

    • WSB January 16, 2013 (3:31 pm)

      Thanks, SC, that’s been sent to us and will be in our events calendar soon if anyone loses track of this thread for future reference. – TR

  • evergreen January 16, 2013 (4:08 pm)

    Levy money will not go to K5STEM, but if other schools slotted for the levy dollars don’t pass, it will impact our school in addition to every other school in the district. The levy funds 30 percent of the operating budget for the district, which includes textbooks and seismic upgrades. We are in this situation because the State has left us underfunded.

    Jane Addams is currently the STEM school north of the ship canal, though not yet in name. The last school board meeting mentioned making JA an official STEM or STEAM school, possibly

  • pagefive January 16, 2013 (4:17 pm)

    Thank you very much for this information. I appreciate WSB’s thorough coverage of PTA meetings, etc. I am also grateful for folks’ comments.
    Our family moved to West Seattle with the intent of transitioning our chidren from private to public schools next fall. We’re eager to check-out K-5 STEM at the Open House later this month!

  • Stemama January 17, 2013 (7:57 am)

    I, too, left the meeting feeling more positive. We took the leap last year, leaving a respected private school to attend STEM, and have not looked back. My kids LOVE it there. The teachers and administrators are outstanding and while the transition wasn’t easy, it was worth it.

    Passing the BEX Levy is crucial to almost 50,000 kids. It’s not a new tax, it’s a renewal, and it pays for almost 30% of the SPS operating budget. Please vote YES- the entire city of Seattle will be deeply impacted if we don’t pass this.

  • hipster! January 17, 2013 (9:48 am)

    This is a bit off topic but I’d like to know if they have secured onsite before/afterschool care yet? Will it be in place for this Fall? Thanks.

  • wseattle parent January 17, 2013 (1:33 pm)

    This looks like a lot of great work! I read the PTA site, and it is truly impressive! You can really tell there is a lot of great leadership at K5 STEM. My son will be entering kindergarten in the fall and it is on our list to check out. We will be at the open house.

    Apologies as this may be off topic… The recent NYT article on accelerated programs got me thinking.

    I understand STEM is not an accelerated school, however I believe that STEM would also be a great opportunity for the children of families not currently employed in tech. I saw the comment in this string that said so far diversity is looking OK… let’s keep that energy going.

    Is there a diversity outreach person at STEM? I would like to offer them my help.

  • insider & parent January 17, 2013 (3:10 pm)

    Equity think about it. what does it really mean?

    There large affects of disproportionate equity in services throughout the district. Huge issues that are attempting to be solved by taskforces throughout the district. It’s not a bunch of bureaucratic red tape, it is simple things such as ADA compliance in old buildings, students with disabilities, and the new neighborhood assignment plan.

    Levies will help improve equity, so will WA state properly funding K-12 education.

  • evergreen January 17, 2013 (3:41 pm)

    We have great diversity at STEM, and I believe this is b/c we are an option school. Parents of any socioeconomic background, race, household makeup, native language, etc…can apply. Jane Addams in the NE quadrant also has the same diversity b/c any parent wanting a STEM focus for their kid can apply. I have noticed a lot of families in both schools, perhaps b/c people from other countries are aware of the value of a strong math and science education. No recruitment has been needed, and most of the families do not have techy parents.

    Just wanted to add that we are not the only school with good math and science in West Seattle. They are all probably equivalent. We just wanted a different approach, such as project-based learning. Neighborhood schools provide an equivalent education, and are also good choices for families. In response to the gifted divide, we also have kids who scored into Spectrum and APP, but they chose to come here. Our intention as a school in the design phase was to provide an education that explores topics more deeply, rather than at an accelerated rate. That said, my child’s 2/3 class is operating at the 3rd grade level, at least for the second graders. The teacher independently chose to start at a la

  • wseattle parent January 17, 2013 (5:17 pm)

    Evergreen –
    That is very good news. Glad to hear no improvements needed in that area. I’m not an educator, but the project based approach does make a lot of sense. I’m sure a lot of kids find that more interesting. I’m sure I would have! Thanks for your reply and additional detail.

  • ptamemberWS January 17, 2013 (8:35 pm)

    I am an SPS employee and with the way our district is busting at the seams yet it is so mismangaged financially I just can’t stomach a vote for the levies. You are just adding to the indecisive, irresponsible, bureaucracy. Good teachers can teach in the worst possible conditions, there is much data to support this worldwide. I also think it’s inexcusible what SPS has done to screw over Westside at EC Hughes. I’m seriously considering sending my own preschoolers to K at a private school. They will be absolutely safer than at the schools with the behavior programs for very disturbed and violent sped students at Gatewood and at Highland Park, our neighborhood school. There is not a decent sped program in West Seattle that is meeting the needs of the children that can possibly support all of these children who need constant care along with the other 23 students in each gen ed classroom. In light of the violence in Connecticut, I am praying for a charter school to open up in West Seattle so I have a CHOICE where to send my child that best fits our needs and that the district can’t jack up with their indecisiveness. Why can’t a sped program go to your STEM school? How many children at STEM are special needs? It is not meant as a school for the gifted. It’s supposed to be for all the children who want to be there. It’s turning out to be only for the most outspoken parents who can devote time to spearheading the revolution. The problem is, what about the students who have no voice? Isn’t that what you public school supporters are so worried about? STEM is the closest thing to a charter school that I’ve heard of in Seattle.

  • StringCheese January 17, 2013 (9:36 pm)

    WHOA there! I can tell that you are very upset and while I can’t speak to all of the things you are ranting about, I can address a few. STEM is for everyone. It is an option school just like all others. Enrollment is done by lottery. We will have a geozone next year but aside from that, anyone who wants to attend can submit their choice during open enrollment and have the same chances of getting a seat. Also, we DO have a fantastic SpEd program at STEM that we are proud to call part of our community. We have an incredible and diverse student body.
    I must admit that I am confused by your post and I hope that others will be able to address any other misinformation it might contain.

  • Evergreen January 17, 2013 (10:03 pm)

    We have a special ed preschool at Boren. Also, there are kids with mild special needs integrated into the general classrooms. I’m certain we have IEP’s like everyone else. STEM doesn’t have a building to call our own, so really unsure what you are talking about. We are advocating for all of the kids currently at our school, and want all of us to be relocated to the same building. And what do you mean violent kids at Gatewood or HP? So confused. But I definitely agree that special needs kids do not get enough support, and that this needs to change (supposedly Banda is hiring new people and reorganizing the special ed dept?)…about EC Hughes, Westside doesn’t have to move out until 2016. Sounds more than fair to me for a leased building that is public property.

  • Heidi A January 17, 2013 (10:57 pm)

    Ptamemberws – I invite you you come tour the school with an open mind. You will see that we have a special ed program and socio-economic diversity. I moved my son from Gatewood for project based learning, but we loved the gatewoodl community and its diversity (also my son was very safe there). When making the decision to move I was concerned that the STEM school would be as you described – but it’s not. Come see for yourself.

    Yes, we have outspoken parents. I’m one of them, but I also work 50+ hours per week. I don’t have extra time and neither do most other parents. we have a strong community of volunteers all willing to work hard and do what they can. The great thing about an option school is that we are all there because we want to be – I hope we get to keep it that way.

    I am 100% committed to making sure it is open to all by keeping it as an option school in a central location with the largest capacity – Fairmount Park.

    Wsparent – thanks for the offer! Please send us a note through the PTA website, I would love to have diversity outreach happening with the open enrollment season and if you are willing to help, we gladly welcome it!

  • STEM Parent Too January 17, 2013 (11:43 pm)

    Not using my normal WSB name as this is personal info. … my child has an IEP, and I know that there are quite a few at STEM. The teachers are caring and work well with each individual student, despite the large class sizes.

    @ptamemberWS – find another job. You shouldn’t be working for a school district you so obviously despise. I’m happy for you, that you can afford to send your child to a private school (does SPS pay you enough? I’m surprised). BUT this levy money is not for SPS, it’s for our children. For the children of those of us who can’t afford to send our kids to private school. I’m tired of people saying, “I’m not voting for the levies because I don’t want to give that money to SPS” It’s not the school district you’re hurting, it’s our children!!

  • insider & parent January 18, 2013 (6:35 pm)

    STEM Preschool is an amazing SPED program. The staff are unbelievable. I know b/c those same staff have worked in my classroom, developed an outstanding program another school in SE seattle and lastly my child is there! Gatewood and HP do not have severely violent students. Gatewood has a strong reputation and yes, HP has issues, they are not related to the EBD program. Yes there are EBD programs, Yes the district is not adequately supporting SPED among other issues, Yes the district has finanical management problems…. Those are not examples to allow the future of our children to be forgotten or not funded….

  • Evergreen January 18, 2013 (9:38 pm)

    Hipster, no on-site before/after school care yet. However, buses drop kids off & pick them up at neighboring before/after school care programs.

    Anyone have additional info for her?

  • Brontosaurus January 19, 2013 (12:14 am)

    Here are the programs STEM has in addition to the K-5 elementary:

    1-Transitional Kindergarten class
    1-SPED Preschool class
    1-Autism class (I’m not sure if I’m defining this class correctly, but I believe it’s a special autism class).

    Everyone is part of the school community at Boren. The Transitional K class wear the school uniform and participate in assemblies etc. I’ve heard very good things about the Transitional K too.

    @ptamemberws STEM is not a school for the gifted. EVERY KINDERGARTENER, WHOSE PARENT/GUARDIAN HAD STEM AS FIRST CHOICE IN OPEN ENROLLMENT, GOT IN. We had STEM second. We ended up 39th on the wait-list for our first choice, Pathfinder (now, that’s a school that is not open to enough people – if you’re not in the geo-zone or have a sibling there, good luck). Thankfully, we got into STEM too. Originally there were only three K classes at STEM, but the Design Team and SPS wanted to accommodate as many kids as possible, so they opened up an additional K/1 split, bringing in as many kids as possible from the wait list. So glad they did!

  • hmmmm January 24, 2013 (1:43 pm)

    STEM sounds amazing – wouldn’t it be nice if there was this much passion/commitment and interesting curriculum for ALL of our public schools? Wouldn’t it be nice if ALL of our schools had great programs? Every single magnate or specialty school in Seattle has many more applicants than spots. Those not lucky enough to “win” the lottery – are out of luck. Doesn’t this tell us something? STEM may not be full now – but based on what I read here – it will be in short order. Wouldn’t more children than not benefit from Project Based Learning. Parents flee the “regular” public schools when a new specialty program opens. If they are lucky enough to get into one of the special programs. Why not figure out a way to improve the schools we already have before opening new programs that only a few have the opportunity to attend? We all want the best for our children. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are key in preparing ALL of our kids for the future. SPS has proven over and over again that they are mismanaged, wasteful of our tax dollars, negotiate in bad faith, and you should not count on any “promises” they make.
    I always, always vote for school levies – I am not confident that this money will be spent appropriately. SPS has a long way to go to prove themselves – we are an amazing city and should have amazing schools.

Sorry, comment time is over.

WP-Backgrounds by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann